Joanna Swash Group CEO of Moneypenny. Moneypenny handles outsourced phone calls, live chat and digital comms.
Treating your customers as celebrities is not a new concept, as they are the lifeblood of any business. But when it comes to your people, they deserve the same VIP red-carpet treatment.
Last year the New York Times published an article exploring how the global pandemic was contributing to the dismantling of the cult of celebrity. The article listed entertaining moments like Anthony Hopkins playing piano for his cat and Yo-Yo Ma playing cello at home, but also critiqued some of the “tone-deaf” social media posts various celebrities shared that received backlash from their audience. Think connection instead of attention, and whatever lessons the world has taught us from the pandemic, we should take notice of this trend and how we are all seeking to connect, whether it is with celebrities, colleagues, friends or even companies.
Like most, I am not immune to the effects of celebrity. If Ryan Reynolds, Hollywood star and owner of Wrexham AFC, showed up at my company’s headquarters in Wrexham at the start of the soccer season, I would definitely need to find my composure before welcoming him, but this is true for any visitor.
I believe that the celebrities who have fared well are not those who compared quarantining in their homes to “being in jail,” but those who have been authentic. Those who have danced around the kitchen, their children regularly appearing in shot, or who read bedtime stories. In being real, you feel a connection and a sense of trust, and we can all learn from this.
In the world of business, authenticity is fundamental to being a good leader. It is about finding your individual way of leading based on your values and moral code, and it is about being true to yourself. In walking your own walk and talking your own talk, trust is built and that trust nurtures a culture where employees are motivated, engaged and empowered. It creates a transparent culture of honesty in which people understand their value and do not fear the implications of being judged.
In providing an environment in which your staff feel safe and valued, you are accepting who they are, warts and all. However, we should be clear that this doesn’t mean that you’ve given them carte blanche to be rude, inappropriate or disruptive. Clear boundaries are required. But if you have your recruitment strategy down to a tee, you will be attracting people with the right attitude from the start. Also, remember that being authentic is much easier if your values align with that of the business. Think how exhausting it is to come across as something you are not.
Building your team of VIPs.
People are your most valuable asset, whether it is your customers, stakeholders, team or trusted partners. But it all begins with the people within your business, your people, who make it what it is, so they should be considered as important on the celebrity scale as your customers, if not more.
The term celebrity service was coined by author, speaker and marketeer, Geoff Ramm. In his book Celebrity Service, he describes asking his audience if they treated all of their customers in the same way. One particular woman took up the mantel, adamantly professing what she offered her customers. He then asked what she would do if George Clooney called up. Would she close the store? Absolutely. Would she close the store for him? There was the realization. She would not. What else would she do for George? Go to the hairdressers, polish the floor, etc. In other words, she did treat customers differently. She already thought she was delivering the highest level of service until Ramm brought up an actual celebrity walking in. There was a gap she never knew existed.
This anecdote is focused on customers, yet the principle remains the same for your team. Ask yourself how you would react if you had a team of Ryan Reynolds working with you. Would you behave any differently, either as a leader or as a colleague? I’m pretty sure the answer would be yes. So what would fill the gap between the culture you have and the culture that will leave competitors far behind?
As humans we are unique, we all have something to offer, and we all want to connect. We are all important people, and business needs to recognize this. Just as we shout about treating customers, not as numbers or paychecks, but as trusted partners, the exact same importance should be paid to our people.
In supporting your team to be the best that they can be, it is important to remember everyone is unique. We all respond differently; we all have different motivators. For some, it is bringing home the bacon, for others, it is making a difference. Neither is wrong or better than the other, just different.
Beyonce isn’t any better than David Beckham, and neither of them is any better than the people who work for you. They all present different perspectives and skills and should be respected and treated as individuals. In developing a culture of authenticity, you create a safe environment in which people trust and fulfill their potential. It may begin with your people, but it applies to everyone who walks through your door, and the payoff for creating this type of workplace culture will reward you.